Taking The Rough With The Smooth

Once we had settled our bill, we continued wending our way eastwards, however shortly at the Seaport of Papenburg were initially flummoxed with a detour. We should have peddled straight across a lock gate, but the detour took us to what was ostensibly a dead end, with a warning sign that google translate informed us said crossing was at your own risk. It soon became apparent that a liner was entering the other end, and once the gate was closed, we were assisted across by the lock-keeper. Whilst waiting though we noted the huge building and, referring to google found that this was the largest manufacturer of cruise liners, and indeed there were a number of parts of ships awaiting to be assembled.

We travelled onward, well into Germany and found that like Belgium, there is a penchant for cobbled cycleways here. These are wearing on the derrière and tend to make Talula rattle and have Mr V checking her screws are not loosening. We did though have a lovely leafy coffee stop beside a canal, which was a pleasant change from our car park stop of yesterday. On the whole the going was very good where the paths were tarmac, we licked along at about 15mph which meant that we could utilise the USB dynamo to charge up batteries. We stopped for lunch at a well recommended (according to google maps) bakery/cafe, and enjoyed lovely freshly made rolls, cool drinks and tea, ordered with the assistance of google translate (have I mentioned how useful I find this app?! 😊)

Refreshed we rode onwards to Hatten and found a cool shady spot in the campsite to pitch our tent. We had the tent area completely to ourselves, so were happy that tonight there would be no snoring. We have found that most of the campsites that we have stayed on so far, have been occupied by caravans which seem to remain there permanently, which means that though the site may look busy, it is likely to be relatively quiet, especially on a work day. Oh, and today I enjoyed a hot shower, which to my shame was long enough to have steamed up all the mirrors in the ablutions, so I was glad that there was no one waiting! It had been a long ride today as we had cycled over 50 miles, and it was getting very hot in the afternoon, we planned for the next day to be shorter with just a 28 mile pedal to Bremen where we had booked a hostel as camp sites were few and far between.

The next morning, we were awakened by the dawn chorus, but had slept relatively well, other than the fact that there was definitely a defect with one of our thermarests; we had decided to take it in turns to sleep on it, as though it does deflate, it does so very slowly, and tonight was my turn. I had woken with the feeling that it was less buoyant at about 01.00, and thought ‘I’ll get up, go to the loo and then pump it up’, however, I must have then fallen back to sleep, because the next I woke it was 04.00 and parts of me were definitely not cushioned from the floor. Bladder now pressing, I saw to that issue first, but as I was leaving Mr V enquired as to the mattress and by the time I was back, he had re-inflated it so I could just snuggle back down for a couple more hours slumber. My hero.

Neither of us felt like having breakfast before we left, so made do with a cup of tea and also made a flask of coffee for later. Setting off before 09.00, we had a lovely stretch though leafy countryside, though as the morning grew warmer, we found that there seemed to be less shade as we approached towns on the outskirts of Bremen. We stopped at Delmenhorst and I popped into a bakers for a mid morning treat, choosing a large slab of butter cake to share. We walked through the town, looking for a nice shady bench to stop at and enjoy our cake and coffee, but as is the way, every one was occupied. Never mind we thought, we shall pedal on, there is bound to be somewhere with a nice seat to stop. There was not. We had hit the suburbs of Bremen and there was neither seat, nor accessible green space to stop. We had just about given up hope, when we spied a scrappy slice of greenery surrounding a small pond, deciding that this will do, we flopped down poured our coffee and greedily devoured the butter cake. We took a bit of a breather to enjoy the shade and give ourselves a break from the saddle, but it was not the most salubrious place, so we moved on, however, as day follows night, bladder pressure follows coffee consumption. Whilst in the countryside, this is not a big issue as a conveniently shielding spot can usually be found. However, in an urban environment this is a different story. I do have a very handy app called ‘Flush’ which gives you details of public toilets in your area, but there was a dearth of anything on or close to our route. Throwing caution to the wind, I spotted some sort of service box surrounded by some bushes, and though not perfect concealment, quite frankly, the need was too urgent to care. Mr V followed suit, but of course it was far less obvious for him (and for those who have followed previous travels; no, I have still not overcome the ‘she-wee mental block’!)

We reached the centre of Bremen by midday, and had planned to drop off our bags at the hostel and stow Talula in their lock up so that we could explore unencumbered. Though we were aware that the check in was not until 15.00, what we had not noticed, was that the reception closed at 11.30-15.00, so given the heat of the day, there was nothing for it but to find somewhere where we could pass the time. Google maps found a nearby park, so we headed there and set up our chairs to rest a while. After an hour or so, I went in search of lunch provisions, and ended up having a wander around the centre of Bremen which is quite lovely. It is a maritime city which sits on the Weser River, and has ornate buildings surrounding the main Market Square, towering over which are the huge spires of St Peter’s Cathedral. I did though manage to miss the iconic statue of the Bremen Town Musicians, but in my defence, the heat was relentless and I was on an errand to secure lunch, so it was more of a whistle stop wander than a meander.

I found a cafe/bakery a little off the main tourist area and had a go at ordering ‘zwei tee zum mitnehmen bitte’ stumbling a bit over the word for ‘takeaway’. There were a couple of ladies working there, I was able to deduce that one said to the lady that was assisting me to speak English to me, to which it was possible even for me to perceive, that her response was to the effect that ‘she is trying’! Ordering the filled rolls was more heavily reliant on pointing though and thankfully ‘vegetarian’ seems to be universally understood. Making my way the short distance back to where Mr V was waiting (snoozing) in the cool, I did instantly regret the choice of scolding hot tea, given I had no cup holder, but we got there intact.

By the time we had finished our picnic lunch, it was almost time to check into our hostel, so we made our way there, stowed Talula in the lockup and carried our bags the 3 flights of steep stairs with to our allotted room, breathing a sigh of relief to finally rest, we opened the door to find that the room was clearly still occupied, fortunately we did not walk in on anyone, but the detritus of occupation was clearly evident. Mr V was not a happy bunny as he does not do well in the heat, so I traipsed down to reception to see secure another room. The receptionist fortunately had excellent English so we sorted the matter out quickly, it seems that the absent occupant had stayed an extra day but this was not on the system. We only had one more flight of stairs to go up and we were at last in our own cool haven, with a comfy bed and our own en-suite. After showers, we both felt more human and set to sorting out as much washing as possible, taking the opportunity to completely freshen up. Once this was sorted, we set off to have a little wander around and get some food. I revisited the central Market Square area and surrounds with Mr V, by now it was less crowded, we also took a walk around the Schnoor area which has charming narrow cobbled streets flanked by medieval houses. It was though still stiflingly hot so we made our way back to our room, and had second showers before making the most of lounging in a nice comfy bed.

After a blissful night’s sleep, we still awoke early as we were concerned that this was going to be yet another blisteringly hot day, so decided to be on the road as soon as we could after picking up our washing at 07.00. We made our way through Bremen, which was relatively busy with commuter traffic even this early. This was though not as stressful as it could have been due to the excellently integrated cycle system, which keeps you as separate from the traffic as possible. Before long we were out in the countryside again, giving thanks for the stretches of the route that were flanked by avenues of trees, or traversed woodland, giving much needed shade.

We came to Ottersberg, which was a pretty place with an abundance of houses in the ‘gingerbread’ style, this is on the EV3 (Pilgrim route) and we noted up ahead another cycle tourer, easily identified due to the panniers. We followed him round a bend, when I realised that we were now off course, so we stopped to take stock of where we had gone wrong. Sure enough our fellow cycle tourist had taken the same wrong turn, we chatted for a time, exchanging travel destinations and distances. He was actually on the last day of a 5000 mile tour around Europe, stating at Gibraltar. We wished each other safe travels, and he sped off, whilst we gingerly bumped along the cobbled street, until we were back on tarmac.

Our intended campsite was in Zeven, around midday we were pedalling along a relatively busy and unshaded road, which was really sapping our reserves. We needed to have a break, so referring to google, I found that just up ahead was an Edeka supermarket. This was a new brand to us, so we went to explore, Mr V staying in the shade whilst I went to get the provisions. Once procured, I spied an area next to the door which was set out with tables and chairs and parasols, so we took advantage, and had a very pleasant rest, albeit that we were lunching around the edge of the car park, but needs must and all that …

Car park lunch, with table, chairs and even a parasol

We found our campsite, and again as a small tent, were in the minority, but that gives us the choice of pitch. After setting up the tent and unloading Talula, we set off to the nearby town to get supper and then settled down for a lovely relaxing afternoon and evening, watching the comings and goings. We were not the only tandem in the vicinity, we spied some near neighbours as the peddled off for a jaunt!

Fellow tandemers

It is another hot day tomorrow, so another early start to make the most of the cool air of the morning

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